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2016 July

July 20, 2016

This plane could cross the Atlantic in 3.5 hours. Why did it fail?


(From Vox.com article of the same name by Phil Edwards)

You might remember the Concorde, the supersonic plane that came to symbolize technological optimism and extreme luxury. Though it always had critics and a high ticket price, it delivered on the promise of supersonic transport, giving riders trans-Atlantic flights in under four hours.

And then in 2003, the Concorde landed for good. What went wrong?

The video above examines the tangled mess that doomed the Concorde. The reason for Concorde’s demise isn’t simple. It happened due to a range of factors, from high price to manufacturing concerns to environmental worries. In concert, all of these negatives turned a technological breakthrough into a business nonstarter.

But even if the Concorde failed, it looked beautiful doing so. The video shows the masterful engineering that made the Concorde work, from its breakthrough wing to its whimsical — yet highly functional — “droop snoot.”

Smithsonian curator Bob Van der Linden, who also rode on the plane, told me the journey was both extraordinary and surprisingly ordinary, because the engineers strove to make Concorde as comfortable as any passenger flight.

And that’s the enticing paradox of this late, great plane: It could be both an engineering masterpiece and a business failure at the same time. That may be what makes it so alluring, as well. We know planes like the Concorde can change flight; we just have to figure out how to make it sustainable.

July 13, 2016

The assembly code from Apollo 11 is now on GitHub

Margaret Hamilton, director of software engineering on Apollo 11, next to the printout of the code.

Margaret Hamilton, director of software engineering on Apollo 11, next to the printout of the code.

As found on Quartz.com via Slashdot.org, “the code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it’s like a 1960s time capsule.” The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) code has been available since 2003 after the first upload was made from scanned images. The poor state of the printouts left holes within the entire code when uploaded by MIT and efforts made by tech researcher, Ron Burkey. Burkey pieced together what he thought the holes could be based upon his engineering background (and later confirmed his patches were correct.)

For more on this topic plus a AGC simulator, check out this article from Quartz.com